MacBreak Weekly rant

Leo Laporte’s TWiT Podcast Network has some really good podcasts including This Week in Tech (TWiT). More recently, the network has launched MacBreak Weekly and (I understand) will soon launch a Windows Podcast hosted by Paul Thurrott. Of course, some of the information is subjective and must be taken with pinch of salt – it can also be very US-centric (this is helped when there are European guests, e.g. Wil Harris from Bit-Tech); however MacBreak Weekly annoyed me greatly as I caught up on a few podcasts over the last couple of days.

  • Whilst discussing the Mac Pro (in episode 3) there was comment about a lot of software not being optimised for multi-processor configurations and the reply came back (and I quote) “you mean that Apple actually built a computer that’s ahead of its time?”. No! I can accept that Apple may well have built a computer that offers more processing power than many users could use; and in Apple’s credit all Macs now have at least two processor cores (except any Core Solo Mac Minis that are still being sold – I think even they have hyperthreading) but both the other major PC operating system platforms (Linux and Windows) have supported multi-processor machines for some time now – if Mac OS X is not able to make full use of the machines then that’s a fault of the operating system designers at Apple and they need to get up to speed – quickly. I’m no developer but the need to rewrite applications to run on an Intel platform instead of the older PowerPC architecture was given as the reason for the distraction preventing writing applications to use the available processing power. That doesn’t stack up to me. I am casting my mind back 15 years now but I seem to remember from the operating systems internals module that made up a part of my degree that it is the task of the operating system scheduler to assign processor time to execution threads – so that’s Mac OS X then, not the applications. Of course if the applications aren’t threaded then there’s not much that the operating system can do about it, but even applications for a single processor should be multithreaded. Shouldn’t they?
  • They then went on to talk about striping four 750GB SATA drives to give 3TB of “super fast storage performance”. Hmm… it sounds very risky to me. SATA drives are okay for PC use but not designed for 24×7 operation; however, regardless of the disk hardware in use, RAID 0 (striping) offers no fault tolerance at all. Zero. Nada. RAID 5 and 6 would work (but are a bit slow for writing) and would reduce the available disk space to about 2.25TB. If the Mac Pro’s RAID controller supports it, the safest solution (whilst remaining performant) would be RAID 1+0 giving 1.5TB of usable space, mirrored across two disks and then striped. RAID 0 might be fast but you’d better hope it’s being backed up somewhere else and 3TB backups are not very easy to manage!
  • In another section, the panel was amused that PC Magazine would cover a story about why 91% of Mac users are satisfied with their product (as Apple tops a user satisfaction survey). Get over it – Mac OS X is just an operating system and Macs are personal computers (they always have been). If that’s a bit literal then Intel Macs are definitely just PCs! Now, if Windows XP Magazine or Linux Format had covered this story then I could understand the amusement, but PC Magazine and Personal Computer World should be covering Linux, Mac OS and Windows stories (in my experience Personal Computer World magazine certainly does) as well as those relating to any other operating systems that run on PC hardware.
  • In one episode the guys were suggesting that there is no reason to buy a PC as a Mac can do it all, making it a better PC than a PC… but hang on guys – previously you were making a distinction between Macs and PCs – you can’t have it both ways! And as much as I love Apple hardware, a black MacBook sounds pretty expensive to me. Even the MacPress has commented that other PC manufacturers have been making black notebook PCs for many years now (and they don’t charge a £90 premium to have it in black). I’d love a MacBook but my IBM ThinkPad is still my favourite (and best built) notebook PC.
  • Another item that riled me was a comment that Macs have 5% of the PC market share but not 5% of the viruses – duh! Hackers, virus writers, and other miscreants like kudos. No-one gets kudos for writing a virus on something obscure, but as the Mac gains a greater market share it will be the target for more malware – especially as the MacPress continues to stress that Windows on a Mac is subject to the same security concerns as Windows on any other PC (true) whilst stressing that running OS X on a Mac is safe (misleading… and unlikely to remain true indefinitely). All PC users should practice safe computing, regardless of the operating system.

In all, MacBreak Weekly disappointed me with a general Mac-elitist view. Sure, I recently switched to using a Mac, but I run other OSs too (I’m writing this on my Fedora notebook). Mac OS X is good at some things, Linux is good at others and, believe it or not, Windows is good at some things too; Windows Vista and Windows Longhorn Server may be running late but Windows Server 2003 is still a great server OS. The trouble is that there are still too many “my OS is better than your OS” discussions.

Still, at least (in episode 5) I learnt about availability heuristics!

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